Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

(Charleston) Post and Courier. May 10, 2021.

Editorial: SC shouldn’t subsidize open carry, but Senate had one good idea about guns

A week of debate in the Senate didn’t produce a good reason for South Carolina to let people carry handguns openly in public. We heard that people want to do this, and that some mistakenly believe the U.S. Constitution gives them a right to do it, but that’s not the same as a reason the state should allow it.

But now that the Senate has passed H.3094 by a vote of 28-16, and with Gov. Henry McMaster champing at the bit to sign any sort of open-carry bill into law, it’s clear that it’s going to be allowed. The only question at this point is what else is going to be included in the bill.

Unfortunately, the Senate added two bad provisions to the bill. Fortunately, it also added one good provision.

Let’s start with the bad: After senators wisely refused to fling the door wide open to everyone who wants to carry a gun, no background check or training required, they voted to eliminate the $50 application fee for the concealed-weapons permit that people still will need to carry weapons in public, concealed or unconcealed. That fee covers, among other things, the cost of the criminal background check and the red tape the department has to go through to deny a permit.

The so-called constitutional-carry crowd said people shouldn’t have to pay a fee to do what the Second Amendment allows them to do, which would be a great argument if the Second Amendment actually allowed them to carry guns anywhere they want. But the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly made it clear that the Constitution doesn’t provide unlimited gun rights.

So what this provision actually says is that the Senate thinks it’s so important for people to carry their guns in public that the vast majority of South Carolinians who do not choose to do that have to subsidize those who do. Just think about that.

Here’s another bad addition. Under current law, if someone wants a permit but “is unable to comply with” the part of the law that requires people to pass an approved training course or meet one of the many exemptions from this requirement, SLED has to provide the training course, at a below-market cost of $50. The Senate amended that to prohibit SLED from charging for the course, which means that reasonable people will now just demand their free SLED course rather than paying someone to provide it. So that’s one more way taxpayers will subsidize the proliferation of guns in public places.

On the other hand, the Senate added a provision to the bill that should reduce the chance that bad guys will be able to get a concealed weapons permit — or even purchase a gun.

Under current law, court officials have at least 30 days to notify SLED of court actions. An amendment offered by a bipartisan group of open-carry supporters and opponents and approved by an overwhelming voice vote cuts that time to five days, plus weekends, and adds indictments and restraining orders that might not otherwise be covered.

Supporters said this would prevent people from receiving a concealed-weapons permit after, say, a restraining order has been issued but before SLED knows about it. And that’s important. But more important is that it cuts down the lag time that can allow people to purchase weapons in violation of federal law.

Federal law requires people to pass an FBI criminal background check before purchasing a gun, but stores can sell the weapon if the FBI hasn’t denied an application within 72 hours. This nonsensical provision is what we call the Charleston loophole, a term coined after a white supremacist was able to purchase the gun he used to slaughter the nine innocents at Emanuel AME Church — even though he had an arrest that should have disqualified him from being able to buy a gun.

The Senate bill wouldn’t close the loophole, and it wouldn’t even have speeded up the background check of Dylann Roof: The problem in that case stemmed from a jail officer who entered the wrong arresting agency when the killer was arrested on drug charges, which led to an FBI official calling the wrong police department in search of additional information and delayed the background check past the three days allowed by federal law.

There’s no good reason to let people purchase guns just because the FBI hasn’t completed a background check in three days — particularly since nearly all background checks are completed within three days.

And if the Legislature is determined to encourage more people to carry guns in public, and in a more provocative way, it would make sense also to give the FBI a few more days to complete those background checks, to reduce the risk of selling guns to the wrong people.

But while we wait for the FBI to clean up its problems with background checks, and while we wait for Congress or the states to give it more time to conduct those checks, anything we can do to eliminate reporting delays in the criminal justice system will prevent some people from purchasing guns who are barred by law from purchasing them.

The least the House could do is to eliminate those gun-subsidy provisions the Senate tacked onto the open-carry bill, and accept the Senate’s requirement that our court officials work a little faster to get current court information into criminal databases so we can keep guns out of the wrong hands.

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(Orangeburg) Times and Democrat. May 11, 2021.

Editorial: Retirees can take close look at Orangeburg

It’s no secret that South Carolina, like other states in the South, is growing in population. Early U.S. Census data from 2020 puts the growth at 10.7% over the past 10 years, with the state adding nearly a half million people.

Much of the growth is occurring in areas attractive to retirees, the coast and Upstate locations, but Orangeburg and the entire state stand to benefit. A new study offers some evidence.

South Carolina is been ranked by the SeniorLiving.org study as the No. 10 best state for older adults, with factors being people’s desire for their money to go far, good weather, excellent health care and a social life.

The rank is derived from compiling numbers in 15 categories across taxes and finances, health and medicine, and lifestyle and culture using data from the Census Bureau, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here are several reasons South Carolina is the No. 10 best state for older adults:

• No. 7 lowest average monthly marketplace premium after tax credit at $116.

• No. 8 warmest state with an average temperature of 65 degrees.

• No. 4 best culture ranking.

It’s not the first study that gives the Palmetto State high marks for the older population.

In 2020, SmartAsset, a New York financial technology company, released its study, Best Places to Retire in the U.S.

SmartAsset gathered data on three separate regional factors that affect the quality of life for retirees, including tax-friendliness, medical care and social opportunities.

First, it looked at state and local tax rates, considering two types of taxes: income and sales. It calculated effective rates based on a retiree earning $35,000 annually (from retirement savings, Social Security and part-time employment). Income taxes paid were subtracted from the gross income to determine disposable income. Sales taxes paid were calculated based on the disposable income being spent on taxable goods.

SmartAsset determined the number of doctors’ offices, recreation centers and retirement centers per thousand residents in each location. Finally, it measured the number of seniors in each city as a percentage of the total population.

It’s important to note that Orangeburg and surroundings are not left out when people are considering retirement destinations.

In the SmartAsset study, Orangeburg ranked No. 6, behind only Seneca, Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island and Greenville.

Specifics of the Orangeburg ranking:

• Taxes -- 15%

• Doctors’ offices per 1,000 people -- 3.4

• Recreation centers per 1,000 people -- .08

• Retirement centers per 1,000 people -- .6

• Percent of seniors -- 14%

• Best Place to Retire Index -- 33.95

Orangeburg is taking steps, and should continue doing so, to make itself a retirement destination.

In 2019, the county received the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities certification, showing it is committed to making the county more age-friendly. The county was the first in South Carolina to receive the designation.

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities is the United States affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program, an international effort launched in 2006 to help cities prepare for rapid population aging and urbanization.

The certification targets eight primary livability domains under criteria established by AARP and WHO that influence health and quality of life. Some of these measures include having such things as walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.

As part of the certification designation, the county is expected to participate in a multistep process of improvement that takes about five years and includes enrollment; conducting surveys and listening sessions; creating action plans and implementation.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright has described the certification as “a big deal for us and for the county as a whole.”

Indeed. And while needed focus is on economic development via business and industry, further building the county as a retirement destination must be a priority. The county needs to prepare for growth of the senior population over the next decade.

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(Greenwood) Index Journal. May 8, 2021.

Editorial: This time, government really is helping you

Have you ever heard the phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” and immediately felt your rear end tighten up a bit?

Well, this time you can relax. And you can thank your state lawmakers for some sensible spending that is for your benefit, for the benefit of every taxpayer in South Carolina. While you’re at it, you might even consider thanking newspaper journalists.

State Law Enforcement Division — commonly known as SLED — is the state’s top law enforcement agency. If another law enforcement agency needs investigated, SLED swoops in. SLED is actively involved in a host of investigations across the state, but there has long been an area where the agency lacks the manpower it needs: forensic auditing.

When Charleston’s Post and Courier reported a couple of months ago that SLED doesn’t have a white-collar crimes investigator, SLED’s chief, Mark Keel, asked lawmakers for $159,000 to hire a forensic auditor. This detective would likely be equipped with a computer, not a gun, and would be specially trained to sleuth patterns in illegal spending.

If you think that cannot be so big a problem, you haven’t been reading the Uncovered series conducted by the Post and Courier and now being carried out in partnership with a number of newspapers across the state, including the Index-Journal.

What? Public officials and politicians not playing by the rules? Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so. Well, you can say it ain’t so, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t so. Savvy?

It is so, and SLED could surely use some help in that arena. Thankfully, the state Senate agreed and approved Keel’s request, clearing the way for an auditor to be hired this summer.

We in the newspaper business serving communities (translation: voters and taxpayers) as watchdogs of government are certainly grateful. Rest assured, this does not mean we can or will relax our efforts. One auditor cannot go it alone, and so we will continue to investigate possible theft and abuse of public dollars.

To do so, we not only rely on our own intuitions and the use of the state’s Freedom of Information Act, which is wholly designed to serve you, the public. We will do so by relying on you and your tips because so often it is the public that first gets a whiff of something rotten in Denmark. And yes, that could be Denmark, South Carolina, but it could be in any state town, city or county.

You too should be grateful the Senate gave the OK to SLED to make that hire. After all, a forensic auditor is also looking out for you, your best interests and helping ensure public officials are doing right by the public. Oh, and you can relax your buttocks a bit now.

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